Business travel guides: Searching in cyberspace

When it comes to the most useful travel guides, executives tend to cite three publications: the Economist City Guides, Fodor’s travel guides and Time Out City Guides. However, more business travellers are finding the information they need in cyberspace.

“I use the Economist online,” says Gregory Maniatis. As a European policy fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, the leading think tank on immigration issues, Mr Maniatis is a frequent traveller from the US to European capitals. “Basically what you’re looking for on business travel is information on hotels and restaurants, and for me the Economist City Guides are the most reliable for this.”

Apart from its accessibility and – for those travelling with a laptop – its portability, the web has features that guide books are unable to provide. Information can be updated more regularly. The home page of the Economist City Guides, for example, lists new hotels, local exhibitions or the best theatre. The website also has links to related Economist material such as news or its country briefings.

Insights from fellow business travellers can be found on the web, too. The Fodor’s site has a “talk” section, where topics posted by users such as “Check-in for Chunnel Train” or “Best way to get from Brussels to Maastricht” solicit replies from other users with knowledge or tips to contribute.

Whether online or offline, however, travel guides are not only used for information on specific destinations. In the late 1990s, a rash of “how to” type travel guides appeared in the US with titles such as The Business Traveler’s Survival Guide: How to Get Work Done While on the Road, by June Langhoff, 202 Tips Even the Best Business Travelers May Not Know, by Christopher McGinnis, and 101 Stupid Things Business Travelers Do To Sabotage Success, by Harry Knitter.

These days, however, few business travel specific guides are being published, according to Andrew Steed, purchasing manager at Stanfords, the London travel bookshop. “There is no general series of travel guides with a business slant and there hasn’t been for some years,” he says.

Instead travel providers are stepping in. American Express Publishing, for example, provides executives with information in both printed and online formats.

Its latest product is the eSkyGuide, an electronic flight directory, which offers subscribers downloadable flight schedules that are updated weekly and are available through handheld devices such as BlackBerries, mobile phones and PCs.

The company’s SkyGuide E-Alert weekly newsletter gives subscribers news and information, including security updates, flight routes, airport news and information on travel deals or promotions. It also publishes Executive Travel magazine.

One of the most popular travel information sites on the web is seatguru.com, where travellers can find seating information about particular aircraft types.

As well as their reliance on the internet, some executives cite the usefulness of newspaper clippings.

“I am a chronic, committed clipper of travel pieces and other articles,” says Bennett Freeman, managing director for corporate responsibility at Burson-Marsteller, the global communications company.

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